Throwback: Edmonton Oilers face Philadelphia Flyers in their first NHL playoff series in 1980
By Cam Lewis1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers’ inaugural season in the NHL featured a tale of two teams.
Early on, the Oilers looked like you’d expect an expansion team to look, as they won just one of their first ten games to start the 1979-80 season. But down the stretch, the young Oilers turned things around. They acquired goaltender Ron Low ahead of the trade deadline in March and won eight of their final eleven games to sneak into the last playoff spot in the Campbell Conference.
In the first round, the Oilers matched up against the NHL’s top team. The Philadelphia Flyers went 40-12-20 and were unbeatable for nearly half of the season, as they put together a 35-game unbeaten streak between October 14, 1979 and January 7, 1980 that still stands as an all-time record to this day.
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This series was supposed to be a walk in the park for the Flyers but the Oilers gave them a better run than anybody expected.
Edmonton came into Philadelphia and nearly won Game 1 but the Flyers scored with just over one minute left on the clock in the third period to tie the score at 3-3 before Bobby Clarke scored the winner in overtime. After a commanding win in Game 2, the Flyers again needed to claw back in Game 3, as they erased the Oilers’ 2-0 first-period lead before Ken Liseman iced the series in double overtime.
After the series, multiple Flyers praised Edmonton’s effort and noted that they weren’t far from being a serious contender…
“They should be damn proud of themselves,” said Flyers head coach Pat Quinn. “They showed us their mettle, They showed us what they’re made of and what they’re going to do in the future.”“Let’s face it. The whole series could have gone either way,” Bobby Clarke said. ” We could just as easily be down 2-1 today as series winners in three straight games. With two games in overtime and this one in double overtime, and that 5-1 game wasn’t a 5-1 game.”“All they need is a couple of key drafts and a trade or two and, I’ll tell you what, they’re going to be there,” Flyers goaltending coach Jacques Plante said. “In five years, they could be playing for the Stanley Cup in that final series. And when they get there, with the talented youth that they have, they’ll be around for a long, long time.”
Plante’s prediction wound up being true. Five years later, the Oilers were playing for the Stanley Cup. They were facing the Flyers, who again had the league’s best record, but Edmonton wasn’t an underdog this time around, as they were coming into the series as the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Flyers won Game 1 in Philadelphia by a score of 4-1 but it was all Oilers the rest of the way. After the Oilers won Game 2 by a score of 3-1, the series shifted to Edmonton and the Oilers won all three of their home games, capturing their second Stanley Cup. Game 5 featured an 8-3 pounding, one of the biggest Stanley Cup-clinching victories of all time.
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